Minister: Rev. Doug McCusker
Rev. Doug comes to us from the UU Congregation of Rockville, MD, where he served as part-time Assistant Minister. Before that, he completed his two-year ministerial internship at River Road UU Congregation in Bethesda, MD. He also has a wealth of experience as a longtime member and lay leader of Accotink UU Church in Burke, VA. His vision of ministry is one of helping others seek and express meaning, purpose, and connection to something beyond themselves.
Rev. Doug is originally from Richmond, VA, the son of a mother who immigrated to this country from Colombia and a German-Irish father from Philadelphia. While he was young, his grandmother lived in the home, teaching Rev. Doug and his siblings to speak Spanish. Rev. Doug is proud of his Latino heritage, and his multicultural upbringing informs many aspects of his ministry.
Rev. Doug graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1980 with a B.A. in Government. In 1982, he earned a postgraduate certificate in Cartography from the University of Mary Washington and began a career as a cartographer with the Dept. of Defense. Rev. Doug earned his M.S. in Systems Engineering from George Washington University in 2005.
Rev. Doug, along with his wife Marie and daughter Bree, began attending Accotink UU Church in 1999. He was an active volunteer and lay leader, and it was because of the satisfying and meaningful lay ministry work he did there that he began to feel the first stirrings of a call to ministry. As Rev. Doug neared retirement with the federal government, he answered that call, earning his M. Div. degree from Meadville Lombard Theological School in 2014. He was ordained in March 2015. Visit his website at www.dougmccusker.com for writings and further information.
Director of Religious Education: Chris Johns
Chris is a longtime member of the UUFF, and has been our Director of Religious Education since 2011. Her creative talents, infectious enthusiasm, and warm-hearted leadership style are tremendous assets, and she is a strong advocate for integrating our youth into many facets of congregational life. In addition to her DRE duties, she also directs the UUth Choir for children and is frequently the director and writer of our annual Holiday Pageant. A 1983 graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City, when not conducting or performing, Chris can be found teaching drama and voice or writing from her home. She has taught and directed for CYT Fredericksburg (Snow White and The Little Mermaid) and the Riverside Center Dinner Theatre (Snow White and Cinderella). With three daughters, two cats, two dogs, and one husband, finding the time to perform can be challenging, but Chris continues to make her way onto the stage as often as she can, recently as a soloist for the National Anthem at a recent event in Fredericksburg featuring First Lady Michelle Obama (and yes, she did have her picture taken with the President’s wife!).
Music Director/Adult Choir/Handbells/UUth Choir: Jason J. Michael
Jason received his BA in Music Composition from Susquehanna University in 1993. Subsequently, he received his BA in Theatre from Kutztown University in 1996, his MA in Theatre from Villanova University in 2005, and most recently his MFA in Theatre from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2014. During the 1992-1993 season, Jason served as Assistant Conductor for the Susquehanna Valley Chorale. From 2001 to 2004 he was Director of Choral Activities and Drama at LaSalle College High School in Wyndmoor, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia. A two year internship with the Berkshire Chorale Festival led to two faculty appointments with BCF in 2006 and 2007, one in Sheffield, MA and the other in Vancouver, Canada. For five years, from 2006 through 2010, Jason was the Children’s Theatre Artistic Director of Upper Darby Summer Stage. From 2011 to 2016 Jason was adjunct faculty at VCU, where he taught Directing and Speech.
As a conductor of musical theatre, Jason has music directed seven national children’s theatre tours for American Family Theatre, and has been a guest music director/vocal director at the prestigious Fulton Opera House in Lancaster, PA, Reading Civic Theatre, Ritz Theatre of NJ, and the Ephrata Performing Arts Center, conducting pits for Annie, Oklahoma!, Peter Pan, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and The Sound of Music to name a few. Locally, for the Riverside Center Dinner Theatre, Jason has music directed 9 to 5, Spamalot, West Side Story, Gypsy, Les Misérablés, Legally Blonde, Pinkalicious, The Full Monty, High School Musical, Phantom, Cabaret, Dreamgirls, and Whorehouse and assistant music directed both All Shook Up and Hello, Dolly! with Sally Struthers.
An active composer, arranger, and author, recent area premieres include “We’re Gonna Shovel the Snow,” The Colors of Christmas,” and “What Cool Child is This.” Other composition credits include incidental music for Cheaper by the Dozen at the Ritz Theatre Co. in Haddon Township, NJ, songs for Twelfth Night at Hunter College, and three revues, The Magic of Spring, America Sings, and Victorian Christmas in the Country, all in collaboration with Oliver Blatt for Blatt’s Dinner Theatre in Kutztown, PA. In 2014, he contributed songs to Warp Speed: A Sci-Fi Parody Musical, which had its run at the Midtown International Theatre Festival in New York City in August 2014. His spiritual, All Aboard: The Ballad of Harriet Tubman, is published by Theodore Presser Co. His children’s books, Daddy Doesn’t Purr (But I Love Him Anyway) and Mommy Made a Beastie (But I Love Her Anyway), and his books of poetry, A Haiku a Day and True Haiku for You, are all available on Amazon. He is married to UUFF Office Administrator Nancy, and they have one son, John Adams.
Office Administrator: Nancy Michael
Nancy is a Doctoral Candidate and Teaching Fellow at The Catholic University of America in the English department, where she is a medievalist. Her dissertation focuses on issues of maternity and agency in Middle English literature. She holds a BA in Psychology from Boston University, an MA in Theatre from Villanova University, and a Graduate Certificate in Medieval Studies from Catholic University. She has taught literature, composition, and Intensive English for Catholic University, New York University DC Campus, University of Maryland Baltimore County, The United States Naval Academy, and Villanova University, and has presented papers on medieval literature at a number of academic conferences. Most recently, Nancy was the recipient of a Fellowship to attend the National Endowment for the Humanities’s Summer Institute “Teaching Beowulf in the Context of Old Norse-Icelandic Literature” at the Medieval Institute in Kalamazoo, MI.
If and when she has time, Nancy works as a freelance stage manager, costume designer, and actor, although her theatrical pursuits have been put on hold so that she can focus on her other full-time career as mother to her son John Adams. She is active in the UUFF Adult Choir and Hand Chimes ensembles. Although she is not a member of the Fellowship, she is extremely happy her family has been welcomed as a part of the UUFF community.
Accompanist: Paula Durbin-Westby
Paula is an organist, keyboardist, and has been a choir director and vocal soloist.
Paula’s earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Richmond, summa cum laude. Studies included organ performance, vocal performance, music education, choral participation and conducting. Paula also has a degree in English literature, magna cum laude.
Paula has had a career as organist and choir director in a number of churches, and has worked as an accompanist at times, at other times as a director with someone else accompanying, and sometimes doing both at once. Leading ad hoc handbell choirs for 8-week sessions was one of the highlights of one position. There is nothing like seeing the joy on the face of someone who says “I can’t do music” when the piece finally comes together and they are doing it!
Recitals have included organ recitals that were a mix of organ playing, piano, singing, and invited guests playing other instruments. Multimedia presentations have always been intriguing.
Indexing books is another career that Paula has pursued over the past twenty years, writing indexes for scholarly books in the humanities and social sciences.
Paula has a teenage son; they homeschool eclectically, using a variety of sources. He has had a bit of a rough time this year with injuries but hopes to make it to UU events soon.
Paula teaches piano and organ lessons. Her blog/site is www.musicnotes.studio.
Minister Emeritus: Rev. Walter Braman
Rev. Braman has many years of experience in both settled and interim positions, and has ministered to a wide variety of congregations. In 1998, Walter served as our interim minister for two years, helping us to successfully navigate a time of transition as we began the process of calling our first settled minister. He became so enamored with the Fredericksburg area that he continued to reside here. In 2010, Walter returned to the UUFF as our part-time minister. He officially retired in 2015 and was bestowed Emeritus status at the Annual Meeting in May, 2015.